By Socialist Worker journalists
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‘We’ll keep marching during election’: 175,000 join Palestine march in London

It is the biggest active mobilisation of the general election campaign
Issue 2809
crowd shot palestine march in London

The front of the Palestine march in London (Picture; Guy Smallman)

We want Palestine on the election agenda, but the election doesn’t mean we are stopping agitation on the streets. That was the mood among wide sections of the march for Palestine in London on Saturday. 

And many marchers say their fury at Keir Starmer means they will vote independent or Green, not Labour.

At 4pm organisers said the march was around 175,000. Although slightly smaller than last time, it’s still a very big march—and guaranteed to be the biggest active mobilisation of the election campaign. Those involved outnumber any party’s canvassing teams.

The demonstration won’t get one percent of the media attention lavished, for example, on the racist Nigel Farage. But this movement has the power to keep changing politics if it escalates during and after the 4 July vote.

It can help drive out the Tories and put pressure on Starmer. It can insist on change from whoever is in 10 Downing Street and contribute to building the much bigger socialist force we lack at the moment.

There was a large student bloc chanting loudly for Intifada and revolution. There were student banners from several different encampments.

There was a large “Queers for Palestine” bloc. The spread of the movement came through with a trade union section including banners and delegations from Unite, Unison, UCU, CWU and other unions, trades councils and groups of health workers. 

Also on the march were “Gardeners for a free Palestine” and “Skaters for a free Palestine”.

Shamil, who works for Friends of Al-Alqsa, said, “We are here to pressure our government. Those in parliament don’t represent the masses—politicians are always the last to react to injustice.”

And Shamil argued that he “wants people to go into parliament to represent us on Palestine. Most people in Britain want a ceasefire.” “The key question is, ‘Do our MPs stand for Gaza? I want people in parliament to represent justice.’”

Sharmin, a council worker from London, said, “The election is a focal point for the Palestine movement. It is a test of whether politicians represent us.”

She said, “Our system is an example of a rigged system that exploits the vulnerable.  Capitalism functions in the same way regardless of who’s in office. We don’t live in a real democracy—it’s a farce. 

“I’m going to vote independent. That’s the only way I can authentically vote.” 

James is a worker from Tunbridge Wells who has attended every national demonstration. He said, “There’s nothing to distinguish the major parties on Palestine. The majority of Muslim people are probably very disillusioned, but I doubt if this will damage Labour to any real degree. 

“There are no easy options—where do you go, if Labour is the only feasible opposition?” 

But he added the movement must “make our presence felt to remind the world that our eyes are on Israel”, regardless of who wins the general election.

On a Palestine Solidarity Campaign coach from Sheffield, people spoke about the election.

Shereen Kamil, a teacher and NEU union member, said, “I’ve voted Labour in the past. But the activism I’ve been involved in the last few years has meant I won’t be voting Labour again. 

“The politicians want to move Palestine off the agenda, but a huge movement has been mobilised and isn’t going away.” 

Davindar from Sheffield said, “It’s really good to see Corbyn is finally standing as an independent. I’ll probably vote Green for the first time.

“But I’m sure I’ll keep protesting for Palestine long after the election, I hope the movement keeps growing through the summer.” 

On the demonstration, Ibrahim said, “I’m voting for whoever backs Palestine. I will keep protesting for Palestine and I think the movement can grow through the summer.” 

Marina from north London said, “Neither Labour nor the Tories deserve to be elected. We need to force some morality into parliament.”

Not many marchers were prepared to say openly that they are voting Labour. That’s not surprising given Starmer’s backing for Israel’s genocidal policies.

Protester, Laura, said, “The Tories should be kicked out of government. Doing that might mean voting for Labour.”

But she added that “Starmer is complicit in genocide, and people should remember that fact even if they do vote for Labour.

“I won’t vote for a party of genocide, so I’ll probably vote for my Green candidate because of their stance on Palestine, but I understand why people want to vote Labour.”

Eloise, who works in publishing, lives in east London in a seat that the Tories currently hold.“For me the main thing is getting the Tories out. People are heartbroken by the Labour Party, but we don’t want another four years of Tory rule,” she said. 

But she wanted a lot more than the present lack of real choice.

Abid, a lawyer in London, had respect for Labour MPs such as Zarah Sultana from Coventry. But he said, “People might say Labour is the lesser of two evils. But I can’t vote Labour, I just can’t.

“What’s the point of voting for the lesser of two evils, it’s still someone who justified war crimes. I’d rather vote for independents who support basic human rights.” 

Protester Caroline, from London, said, “I think there’s far too much posturing around the election. There are more important things to do than vote, like being here.

“To deal with the issues we’re facing, whether that’s in Gaza or Sudan, we need an alternative to elections. 

“I watched some of the debate last night but I turned it off. It’s just politicians getting at each other.”

The Palestine movement must seek to seize the election debate. But becoming obsessed with the arguments over voting will divert from the bigger and most urgent task of growing the movement and its militancy—and driving it deeper into the working class.

The record of a social explosion

National demonstrations for Palestine in London: 

14 Oct: 150,000

21 Oct: 300,000

28 Oct: 500,000

11 Nov: 800,000 to one million

25 Nov: 300,000

9 Dec: 120,000

13 Jan: 500,000

3 Feb: 225,000

17 Feb: 250,000

9 Mar: 450,000

30 Mar: 200,000

27 Apr: 200,000

18 May: 250,000

8 June:  175,000

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